University of Illinois Looks to Strengthen Ties with Africa

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URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois is hoping to strengthen its connections with Africa through new partnerships, research exchanges and student enrollment.

University officials recently visited South Africa and Malawi. The delegation visited with representatives from the University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University and the University of Johannesburg, as well as government officials, The News-Gazette reported.

U of I Chancellor Robert Jones said officials in Africa were eager to work with the university.

“At the end of almost every one of these meetings … there was a plan on the table,” Jones said.

As other continents start to see population declines over the next few decades, Africa is set to see significant growth, said Reitu Mabokela, director of Illinois International.

“When one thinks about where the needs are going to be, the African continent clearly stands out as an area where we need to think about investing for the long term,” she said.

The university already has some ties with Africa, through projects on food and nutrition, water resources and sustainability.

But Mabokela said the university can still do more to engage with Africa.

Jones said he hopes connections with South African universities will result in more research partnerships as well as bring more African students to the university.

University officials hope to diversify the university’s international enrollment. The campus had more than 100 students from Africa last fall, which accounts for less than 1 percent of the university’s more than 10,000 international students.

“It’s important in the same way that we value diversity in our domestic students,” Mabokela said.

Having a diverse classroom, she said, provides broad perspectives and illustrates “what the broader world looks like.”

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